Heard around the West
Better not mess with Nevada: It’s big, and
getting bigger. Last year, Nevada gained an average of 6,141 people
every month, making it number-one for growth in the nation for the
17th year in a row, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Citing
climate and affordability, 70 percent of the newcomers to the state
flock to the Las Vegas area. Says demographer William Frey:
"It’s become almost like a suburb of Los Angeles."
THE WEST Pity the poor National Rifle
Association; it’s $100 million in debt.
What’s more, reports The New York Times, the group has
suffered a recent slide in membership, from 4.3 million to 3.4
million. The loss of actor Charlton Heston as president after seven
years may have hurt the NRA; the high cost of lobbying Congress and
paying for TV ads to fight campaign-finance reform certainly did.
Help could come from young and upwardly mobile hunters. These
well-heeled newcomers are attracted to the sport in part by the
groovy gear: Fitted camouflage jumpsuits for women, British-made
hunting jackets, and pricey rifles and shotguns. But some newly
minted hunters have to contend with verbal barbs from critics who
call their fun with guns "rednecky" or inhumane. One hunter told
the Times that his sisters were so upset they almost yelled the
question: "How can you shoot animals?" His reply: "I still
haven’t hit anything."
Dogs are trained to sniff out marijuana and
explosives, so why not train a dog to hunt down a weed
that’s taking over the West? Hal Stiner of Rocky Mountain
Command Dogs in Belgrade, Mont., is training a dog named Knapweed
Nightmare to pounce on spotted knapweed. The dog, a unique mix
Stiner developed from Czech border patrol stock and a red European
wolf hybrid, has been taught to dig at any knapweed she finds.
After several seconds of digging, a Global Positioning System
device on her collar logs her location, so workers can destroy the
weeds before they spread. Why pick dog detectives over people?
Montana State University researcher Kim Goodwin, who came up with
the idea, says humans move slowly, tire fast and lose motivation,
while Nightmare lives for praise and loves her job. If Nightmare
turns out to be a super-sleuth, Goodwin says, more dogs can be
trained to chase the West’s swarming weeds.
WYOMING The sixth richest person in
the world recently hung out at Jackson Hole for a couple of
weeks. There were a few ground rules: Waiters were
instructed to call the Saudi Arabian prince "His Royal Highness,"
and the ski lifts ran late for his entourage of 35 people. The
wealth of Alwaleed bin Talal, 46, is estimated at $17.7 billion,
according to Forbes magazine.
Never mind Janet Jackson’s rogue breast; what really
riles some Utahns is blatant bellybuttons. An alum
attending a 50th reunion at Brigham Young University wrote
President Cecil Samuelson: "It really shocked me to see so many
tummies on the campus … " Meanwhile, reports The Associated
Press, the school has admitted that it routinely deletes certain
body parts from photos. "We have touched up photos for years
— as far as removing tattoos, covering up bellybuttons, just
things like that," said Duff Tittle, associate athletic director
Everyone knows the adage: First California, then the rest
of the West. What’s coming is odorless, bugless
and, best of all, waterless grass. Orange County, the Astrolawn
company and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
are trying out synthetic lawns at several locations, and so far,
reports the Los Angeles Times, suburbanites love them. A "soft,
supple virtual lawn" is expensive at $6-$7 a square foot, compared
to $1 per foot for living grass, and at first the green blades
shine with a disturbing sheen. But the sheen fades, and more than
one homeowner reports that Astrolawn feels to the feet like the
real thing. If the experiment succeeds, the water district says it
will pay homeowners a rebate for installing waterless lawns.
ALASKA There is yet another
red meat: reindeer. Alaska is restarting its butchering
and inspection program to give the fledgling industry a shot at
finding a market. The meat of reindeer, the domesticated version of
caribou, is expected to sell at $4.50 a pound, says Governing
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on
the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colo. Tips of
Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the
column, Heard around the West.